A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) indicates that social relationships are pathways to addiction, as well as pathways to recovery. The research found that problem behaviors such as substance use are mainly due to peer relationships or social isolation. Positive peer relationships may help protect against substance use. 


The Impact of Peer Relationships on Substance Use

Although family relationships play a role in substance use behaviors, peer influences are the most constant and influential factor in subsequent substance use. Peer influence involves modeling behaviors of peers, obtaining substances from them, and receiving encouragement to use. Positive peer influences may also protect against substance use when the peer group is not involved in engaging in these behaviors. Extracurricular activities such as sports, drama clubs, and debate teams create peer groups and relationships that may foster a substance-free environment.


The Impact of Social Isolation on Substance Use

Social isolation and a lack of peer connections are related to the risk of substance use. The study found that adolescents with little or no peer connections are far more likely to engage in substance use behaviors than their peer connected counterparts. Furthermore, many studies suggest that substance use disorders (SUDs) are associated with social isolation. 


The Importance of Peer Relationships on Psychological Health 

Although “peer pressure” can be detrimental, social relationships and connectedness provide positive psychological influences such as purpose, meaning, and a sense of belonging. These psychological needs are critical to mental and psychological health. Research finds that almost two out of three people in treatment for SUDs are single and unemployed, nearly half of them spend most of their time alone, and one out of four patients report having zero or only one close friend.



Families, peer relationships, and social groups can promote or protect against the development of SUDs. Social isolation seems to be a direct factor influencing substance use. Feeling a sense of belonging may protect or promote substance use, dependent upon peer relationships. 


Looking for Help?

The research shows that social relationships are risk factors or protective factors for substance use. Peer relationships have the power to influence the development of a substance use disorder or protect against their occurrence, and social isolation is one of the main components of developing a substance use disorder.


At Alta Loma Transformational Living, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Loma uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.